theunfamiliarname

Homily for Ordinary Sunday 2C

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2010 at 12:36 am

Several years ago I went to a friend’s wedding in Southland.
It was a funny sort of affair,
a civil celebrant and all over in 5 minutes.
And then the party started. And some party…
Maybe two hours in, the cry went up that the bar was exhausted,
– not quite in those words –
so the Best Man organised a posse of the few sober drivers to remedy matters.
… The only evening wedding I’ve ever been to
where the wedding breakfast was almost exactly that,
certainly the food didn’t emerge ‘til the other side of midnight!

Now, I’d never thought of semi-rural Southland
as having much in common with the Holy Land,
but perhaps that’s rather what it was like…

Certainly, it’s the temperance movement’s nightmare,
Jesus at a wedding in Cana.
Not simply uncritical of the use of wine, veering towards the immoderate…
At this wedding, Jesus actually facilitates the appearance of *more* of the stuff!

A wedding celebration and, we are told, the wine “gave out”.
The demands of hospitality,
even stronger in the Middle East than in Southern climes,
would have made this a major faux pas.
More than this, shame would have fallen on the happy couple’s family
on what should have been a day of honour.
Into the breach steps, with the gentle direction of Mary, Jesus.
Water becomes wine. The day is saved. The party can continue…
We end with a piece of off the cuff, slightly cynical, popular wisdom
from the steward, about saving the best wine ‘til last…

This is not just a miracle,
it is for John, that most allegorical of writers,
most definitely a metaphor.
John says as much.
This is a “sign”, the first, in fact, of Jesus’ signs.

We’re still in epiphany mode,
the revelation of the glory of God in Jesus of Nazareth.
And this is not wise men at a cradle.  Gifts for a baby.
This is an adult Jesus, making a statement, enacting a parable
about who he understands himself to be.

This is also about John, the writer,
and his telling of a story he demands we hear,
with resonant echoes of a lived faith that knows all the story,
knows of the Cross & the empty tomb,
that knows too of the Eucharist.

You don’t, as the writer of John’s Gospel, especially,
tell a story about water and wine
and pretend not to know about the Last Supper and the Cross.
In fact the very reason why the Gospel of John
doesn’t contain the same narrative of the Last Supper as the others
is because the imagery and theology permeates the whole.
His readers are grounded in worship and sacrament.
For them and us he makes the whole story resonate.

Symbolism abounds in this far-from-simple story.
This is Jesus’ manifesto,
his first revelation of what he is about.

What does he do?
Taking the implacable stone vessels of ritual purity,
of division and delineation,
Jesus brings forth the vibrant richness of the marriage feast,
of inclusion and unity and new life.

The marriage feast has always been a biblical image
of both blissful reconciliation with God and the heavenly promise this implies.

Wine is the rich sign of celebration.  New wine.
And there is more of this than can be fathomed,
scholars have tried to do the maths and simply put
– John tells the story of a *lot* of wine,
more than enough to satisfy the thirst of those who drank all the old stuff.

More than enough to cater for guests at the banquet
who may not have known they were invited.
Maybe this epiphany is, as is the story of the wise men,
the opening chapter of the revelation of the God of Israel to the Gentiles.

A narrow, guarded, closely-held cultural faith
is given at this marriage feast the beginnings of a new life.
Water is invigorated with life.

The reading from Isaiah we heard rejoices at the return of exiles to Israel,
offers a vision where the very land itself – and all its people –
will no longer be desolate, but themselves married to God,
a vision of that great wedding feast, the image of the Messianic Kingdom.

Jesus uses that image, you’ll remember, of the wedding feast, in his parables.
In this epiphany season, we who were, as gentiles, excluded,
exiled even beyond those who would return from exile,
are reminded that in this Jesus we are embraced.

Jesus, by transforming the narrow interpretation
of what it means to be the people of God,
of what the new wine of the Kingdom might be like,
reveals God’s call and claim to each one of us,
invited – as every one of us is – to the wedding.

We who were once far off are brought close by the revelation of God
we see in and through this Jesus of Nazareth.

And those of us who feel we have long been guests here
are offered invigoration.
That God in Christ Jesus might do something unexpected,
something fun, perhaps a little irreverent
to stir up the joy and celebration that we are invited to.
The wedding feast is not a sombre affair.

So in this new year, we are called to be open to transformation,
stale and stuck in our ways though we may be.
For in this season of epiphany, we are reminded that Jesus walks among us,
we who might be thinking that the wine has all but given out,
waiting to stir from safety the waters of our faith.

There is better wine to come.

Our Prayerbook has a prayer I hope we might pray together,

We pray you, Jesus, take the old water,
our busy, conscientious lives, and turn them into gospel wine,
that everyone may see your life
and thirst.

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